tagFirst TimeHarp Un-strung

Harp Un-strung

bySammael Bard©

Fair Warning: This story is going to be a long one, narrated by characters aged eighteen years.

This is my attempt at writing something with a mature and slightly morbid content. I hope you enjoy this story.

Tags -- High School, First Time, Romance

* * *


Harp Un-strung

Take me to a place far away
Away from this chaos
Away from this ache and misery

Take me to a place far away
Where they never find us
Singing and dancing
To music all night long
Born of my harp un-strung

Take me to a place far away
Hold me tight
And never let go of me


Prologue


I wake up with a start.

Rivulets of sweat adorn my face as I blink away the vestiges of a nightmare. My breathing is ragged and uneven and my heart threatens to beat its way out of my chest.

The flashes of black, blue and white fade away as the seconds tick by, leaving behind a cold silence. Concentrating on the white wall ahead, I try to remember past the bright burst of colored light.

A therapist suggested I write down my dreams in a diary...a hard thing to do when there is nothing coherent to write about. I sigh and groggily dismiss the dream, as I've done countless times before.

The pitter-patter of raindrops plays an eerie beat on the windowpane. It's a soothing sound in the dead hush of my room. I look at the clock on my bed stand, which cheerily blinks a bright red 5:04 AM.

Convinced that sleep will not come any more, I trudge downstairs to the kitchen. The empty house is creepy, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why my sister spends her vacation at college.

Ice-cold water helps to relax my agitated nerves. I drink some of it and splash the rest on my face. I lean on the kitchen sink. Calm breaths and the sound of falling raindrops permeate my senses as I feel myself relax.

Out of the corner, something dashes towards me.

My equilibrium evaporates. The glass slips from my hand and shatters the silence of the empty house.

Shit.

"Look what you've done!"

My dog bolts away. The sudden noise had frightened him, but he'll slink back in a few seconds to inspect his latest achievement. I hastily collect the bits and shards as best as I can. He sits down next to me after some time, looking with those big brown eyes, hoping I won't be angry.

I can't help but smile.

I pull him closer, and reassure him that nothing could ever be wrong with us. I could never be angry with him.

He's my best friend.

Sitting on the kitchen floor, I become painfully aware of how lonely I really am. The tears surprise me for I've rarely wept in the last two years. He snuggles closer. I hold him tight, afraid to let go of him as the emptiness rears its ugly head. For a few moments, I'm afraid to open my eyes, afraid of the reality I live in.

As the panic subsides, I pat his head and let go of him reluctantly. Bracing myself for the day ahead, I stand up and go back to my room, hoping in vain that sleep will take over.

I lie on my bed, staring at the bare ceiling for the next half an hour.

Chapter 1

~ Inside his head ~


Some days my thoughts are so biting and morbid, it takes even me by surprise. I make sure to stay cooped inside my house, refusing to talk lest anyone sees the person I really am. My behavior defines me as a sociopath, an anti-social best left alone to his own misery.

In my defense, I'll say that it's a rare phenomenon. Living alone in a two-storey house can do strange things to your sanity, but I live through it, one day at a time.

My life's a hell hole. It has been like that for the last two years. Loneliness and depression are my daily companions, and bad luck pops in to say hello once in a while. Some days the shit falls from such a height, I wonder if god himself had crapped on me.

Oh, and I just got expelled from school.

It was nothing. The star quarterback told me that I cried for "mommy" in my sleep. I said I didn't. He insisted, and the next thing you know, he has a busted kneecap. His entire life was ruined in just five seconds.

Aunt Sherry could've won an Oscar for her stellar performance that day -- begging on my behalf, and imploring the principal that I didn't deserve an expulsion. She said I deserved mercy. It broke my heart to see her like that.

The Head finally agreed, transferring me to my cousin's school with glowing recommendations. Provided I kept my nose out of his school for the rest of my life.

The drive back home was terrifying. I'd made my peace with god as soon as my aunt was summoned.

"So, Michael," she finally asked as we stopped at a red signal. She looks just like mom, sans her deep-brown eyes. "What did that boy say exactly?"

I was truthful, repeating his insults verbatim. It was hard not to get angry, but an involuntary fear of my aunt kept me in my place. Her expression remained stoic as she digested the information. I waited for the howl of reprimand, the ones that Daniel usually gets every morning, but it never came.

"And how bad did you hurt him?" she asked quietly.

"I broke his nose," I said hesitantly, "and...and a leg."

She sighs in defeat. "I don't know what to say, Michael. If I were you, I would've done the same thing."

Nothing else was said on the way back home.

*


I surface from the reminiscence and stare at the clock again.

It's 5:42 AM. The drizzle stopped a long time ago.

I drag myself out from the warm sheets, hating the feel of being exposed to a bitter morning cold.

Trundling to the bathroom, I stare at my reflection in the mirror. I've made a habit of studying it every day. My face gives me an insight, a window to what goes on inside my head. With time, I've learned to hide my feelings behind a mask, but in the mirror with only myself to see, something is revealed every now and then.

Today, I'm a mess.

With bloodshot eyes and tornado-swept dirty blonde hair, I can easily pass for one of those homeless drunks squatting in the local park.

I shake my head to get rid of the sluggishness creeping throughout. I brush my teeth and splash my face with the icy water. The shock rejuvenates me as I gear up for the day. Tying up my shoes, I set out for a much needed morning run.

The parks, trees, roads -- everything has remained the same for the last few years. The bright mellow sun cheerily heralds a new day. Its cleansing ray washes away my earlier gloom. I stop at the local park to catch my breath. Filling my lungs with the crisp morning air, I exhale quietly, feeling the stress ease out of my conscience.

New school, new environment, new people...it's something that I have a hard time acquainting myself with. Perhaps I can, if I'm willing to try. I just don't have the heart to do it.

I always used to wonder who invented the concept of schooling. If I knew, I would've buried his body in my front porch and make it a point to walk over his grave when I left for school every morning.

I hate school.

No, it's not the grades I'm worried about. It's the animals inhabiting the place. Screeching, leering and always chattering. Their behavior never ceases to amaze me. My last school was a horrible example.

I'm happy, for now. Getting rid of my previous school had taken an immense load off my chest. The morbid thoughts start creeping in when I'm alone. Otherwise, as long as I have people around myself, I seem to work fine. The crowd will notice a new guy in the middle of a school session, but they'll forget about it pretty soon.

Public memory tends to be very short, should I remind you.

I take a quick shower, make a palatable breakfast of milk and sandwiches, grab my bag and set out for school on my bicycle. I only have to peddle a few meters to reach Aunt Sherry's house. She's my next door neighbor.

My cousin opens the door as soon as I press the buzzer.

"I'm up!" My cousin yells. "MOMLOVEYOUGOTTAGOBYE!"

"You don't have to update the whole neighborhood," I say.

"They hafta know that the Warners are still alive, matey," he deadpans.

Just then, a shout...nay, a roar, pierces the peaceful morning air.

"DANIEL!"

He winces at the near physical impact of the words.

"COME BACK HERE AND FINISH YOUR BREAKFAST!"

I roll my eyes. It's the same drama almost every morning. The difference this time is that we won't be parting ways at the intersection.

With a visible slump in his shoulders, my cousin drags himself back into his house. I have to follow inside as usual and offer moral support.

Aunt Sherry's house is the same size as mine, but a lot cleaner and tastefully decorated. Being a single Mom who worked from home, she had single-handedly raised Daniel and promised to raise me up with him as well. And she didn't fail in either.

Daniel is the valedictorian of his class. He has already earned scholarships to reputed Colleges up North.

Me?

I haven't commit suicide yet. I can chalk that up to her support.

Right?

"I'm so sorry you have to see this, Michael," she says as soon as we enter inside. Turning back to my cousin as if I'm not there, she yells, "EAT UP YOUR BREAKFAST, PRONTO!"

"We're early anyway." My voice is a despicable squeak as compared to her mighty roar.

"I hope everything's fine, Michael?"

"Yeah, of cour-"

"I'M WATCHING YOU DANIEL!" She bellows out loud without even turning her back.

My cousin was quietly trying to stash the breakfast into his bag.

"Jesus Mom! Even Banshees don't scream that loud."

I grin. It's one of those rare moments where I feel like a part of the family. For those precious moments, nothing feels out of place.

*


"Keep your head high, shoulders straight and put that I-don't-take-crap-from-no-one face," Dan instructs me with a serious look. It feels as if we're about to raid an enemy base camp.

"Roger that."

Daniel's school isn't much different from my previous one. Different location but the same ole shit. These were standard procedures for a newbie anywhere.

The building is a standard white, not much bigger than the one I was kicked out of. Students litter the grounds in front of it, many in their own groups. I get a few stares as some pinpoint me as the new guy.

"Meet my friends," Daniel says cheerily. "Guys, this is Michael. Michael, these are guys."

I had expected his friends to be a typical bunch of social misfits. Turns out they're pretty cool.

"I'm Sam," The first one with jet black hair introduces himself. His handshake is firm. Not too tight, not too flimsy either.

"Call me Mike." I offer a genuine smile.

"Welcome to the jungle, Mike." He winks, and I take an instant liking to his easy air.

"Nathan." The next one shakes my hand.

He's huge, easily towering over me by half a foot. Judging by his voice, he's a soft-spoken person. A small grin splits his dark face. "I'm the jock around here."

Something must've shown on my expression because Dan jumps in quickly. "Mike had a bad experience with a jock."

I throw my cousin a dirty look and he seals his mouth shut.

"Oh." Nathan's grin gets even wider. "Don't worry. The only thing I've ever kicked around here is the school football and our Danny boy here."

"Hey!" My cousin cries indignantly.

"Just kiddin'." He laughs. "Nice to meet you, Mike. Call me in if you ever need help. They say my size is enough to scare away most of 'em."

I grin. "I will. Nice to meet you too."

They're good people. Every one of them.

Sam looks around. "Where's Nina? You have to meet her."

"She's stuck somewhere else," Nathan says. "She'll be back before lunch."

"C'mon, let's go before we're late," Dan pipes up. Then he smiles. "Heads up, Mike, you're in Sam's Class."

Lucky me.

"Barring a few nuts, you'll be fine." Sam opens the door for us both.

We enter the hallway -- a typical affair with lockers adorning both sides of the wall. A few more students take notice. They take a glance before realizing that I'm not worth their time. I couldn't care less. I'll be more than happy to remain an anonymous for the rest of this session.

There's a girl standing just outside my designated classroom. Raven black hair, pale skin, extremely beautiful and way out of my league. She was chatting with a mousy brunette before she noticed me.

"Who is he?" she asks.

"He's new," Sam speaks for me.

She evaluates me with a slight cock of her head. Her eyes are a pale grey.

"Oh, a new guy," her voice is lightly amused, a slight sneer clearly evident. She reminds me of the bitches from my last school -- heads full of thin air and noses stuck high in the sky.

"Let's go," Sam says, ignoring her.

We brush past her and enter inside.

"Cheerleader bitch?" I ask quietly.

Sam grins. "Close."

I take my designated seat in the middle of the class. As much as I'd like to sit near Sam, I don't think he'll be of much help in here. Dumping my bag on top of the table, I sit down with a sigh.

Dear Jesus, I pray silently, please don't fuck this for me.

I swear I heard his laughter.

Chapter 2

~ Ice Queen ~


"Claire, please!" Jim whines pathetically.

I throw him a dirty look and, like a dog trained to obey, he shuts up. The bastard has been sleeping around behind my back.

I feel angry. Angry at myself at not being able to hold onto him. Frustrated too, because he could've slept with any of my friends all these months.

And sad because of my own...incompetence.

I have to get rid of him before he makes a scene.

"You know what?" he says angrily. "You're just a frigid bitch!"

That's it.

I stamp on his right foot. He howls in pain and hops around madly. I shove him back. With a foot out of duty, he lands flat with a satisfying thud. He's still howling as I enter the cafeteria.

My girlfriends greet me. I greet them back with a smile, all the while boiling with a rage inside, wondering which of these two-faced bitches slept with my boyfriend all along.

*


My brother used to say that you could tell a lot about people just by looking into their eyes -- their emotions, their thoughts, their evasions, their lies. It's a window to their soul. By the senior year, I had figured out almost everyone. The nerds, the jocks, the princesses, the so-called upper class, the so-called lower class -- no one escaped my scrutiny.

I see lust in Jim's. It's not a bad thing, but seeing it all the time is disheartening. I didn't know how long I could resist. One day, I would've caved in and given myself away. I needed an excuse to break up with him, and he gave it to me on a silver platter.

My girlfriends -- lying, conniving bitches, all of them -- aren't what I'd consider as my friends. Given a chance, any of them will stab me in the back and bring me down.

Then there's Dan Warner and his group. They look so...happy, so carefree and honest. I can't chat with my friends in the cafeteria without being interrupted by their howls of laughter. I've never seen so much liveliness clustered in a single place. How I wish I could shut them up for good.

Then there's this new guy.

He's a mystery.

I've interacted once with him on his first day. I wish I had behaved better, instead showing off my bitch persona. He didn't deserve it.

He uses aloofness on the exterior as a shield. Underneath his liquid brown eyes, there's a hint of sadness. Something that was happy, but a long time ago. A part of his real self emerges when he laughs without a care, but the sadness...it remains. In time, I'll figure him out too.

In the meantime, I have other priorities to deal with.

The news of my break-up will spread out like wildfire. Guys will mill around to fill the vacancy, but I'll pretend to be depressed about it. Hopefully, I can last through the rest of the school session without having to keep someone for company.

Luckily for me, school ends today without another incident. I race back home and fall face first flat on my bed. My head throbs. My phone rings just then, making in groan in frustration. Contemplating suicide seems like a very viable option at this moment.

I look at the screen, and my headache disappears just as quickly.

"Joyce..."

"Is Claire Bennet dead?"

For the first time in several hours, I laugh. And admittedly, it feels good.

"She's close to that stage."

"What happened?"

"Don't ask," I reply glumly. She has her own problems. Letting her worry about my crap is the last thing I want.

"It's Jim, isn't it?"

Damn. There isn't a single thing I can hide from her. Somehow, sitting hundreds of miles away, she can always read my mind.

I sigh. "Yes."

"Do you want to talk?" she asks.

"No. Yes. I-I don't know."

Joyce is the only sane thing left in my life. With her, I can lower my walls and be myself. I laugh, cry and snort freely. She never judges me. I really wish I could be with her right now.

"Okay, tell me this -- did you break up with him?"

"Yes, of course I did."

She breathes out a sigh of relief. "About time you got rid of that leech."

"Leech?" I ask, grinning. "You thought he was a leech?"

"Yes," she states firmly, "an emotional leech that needed to be taken care of sooner. Seriously, I don't know how you stood him all this time."

"Joyce, I don't want to talk about him anymore," I say softly. "Tell me what's up with you? What did the doctor say?"

"Oh," she falters at the sudden change of topic. "Dee gave me the permission to do light physical activities. I can now run for five and a half minutes straight without feeling dizzy or nauseous."

"Wow," I say, "that is good news!"

"And Dad said he'll let me join college if I get well enough!"

Joyce was diagnosed with a rare cerebral disease at birth. She used to have irregular fainting spells. Other than walking and physical activities that required little to no exertions, she was restricted to the confines of her house and its four walls.

Her Dad, my Uncle, did everything he could to make life easier for his only daughter. Home schooling, physiotherapy and what not. She has no social life, but she didn't let it hinder her faith that she'd be able to live a normal life someday. She has shown good signs of recovery of late. I hope she can attend college next year like she always wanted to.

"Make sure you learn some kung-fu," I say, "for you'll have to defend yourself from the lust-crazed guys in college."

"Oh, puh-lease!" she says bashfully. "I'm sure they'll find someone who's more beautiful and doesn't stammer."

"No, they won't," I say firmly.

Inferiority complex is another drawback my cousin has. If only she knew how beautiful she is.

"Gee! You're too good for my ego." She giggles. "I think I'll kidnap you someday and stuff you in my trunk."

"Oh, that'll be wonderful!" I exclaim. "At least, I won't have to deal with the professional nuts in my house."

My cousin ends in a fit of hysterical laughter. She's amused by how much I hate my parents, and I use the fact mercilessly, just to hear the sound of her laughing.

"Okay, Claire, it's time for me to go. I'll call you later, okay?"

"Make sure you have my kidnapping trunk ready, and make it comfy too."

She laughs. "Of course, I will. Take care, Sweets."

"You too."

And with that, she ends the call.

I keep the speaker close to my ears, not wanting the feeling of euphoria to stop. But like all good things that come to an end, the reality dawns over me. Taking a hard swallow, I close the screen and set my phone aside.

A few years ago, I tried to commit suicide but I chickened out at the sight of the blade. As soon as Joyce heard about it, she flew all the way over just to see me.

She said nothing, preferring to hold me in her warm embrace. I bawled like a baby for the first time after my brother died. I don't remember how long because I cried myself to sleep in her arms.

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